Monday Prescription – Should I be in LA?

Hi Film Folk,

We hope you’ve enjoyed/are enjoying the April festivities (if such is relevant to you) and are ready to dive into another week of work?

For this week’s Monday Prescriptionthe Film Doctor team dig into a much argued-over topic – should all filmmakers move to Los Angeles? There are some studio writers working from European bases who say no. There are also some studio writers/producers who say you absolutely MUST be in Los Angeles.

The truth? Well, it’s much more in the middle.


Film Doctor - Los Angeles


OK – so the question is already as wide and general as can be – of course ALL filmmakers don’t need to move to the ‘City of Angels’…but some of you do. If you have a good sense of yourself or this topic, then stop reading now. If, however, this is a question that often resurfaces or plagues you, wherever you are in your career or life, then read on!


So – should I be in LA?


1. It depends on what you want – This is stating the obvious but everything really is relative to what you are looking for. If you want ‘Hollywood’, then go to Hollywood – or at least make sure you are frequently dealing with people/circles involved in ‘Hollywood productions’. Most studio employees will say you need to be ‘in it’ to be in it!

If however, the apple of your filmmaking eye is making more regional fare – or making something staunchly independent – then perhaps an immediate move (or a move at all) doesn’t have to be on the cards. Say you’re living in Denmark or the North of England and making something in Danish or that might only have a certain national appeal to the UK? A move to LA will not bolster your particular chances of receiving financing/opportunities with those specific types of film because the most likely home to those films are Denmark or England.

This comes down to knowing/choosing your market. Where do your type of films sell? Where are they made? Who finances them? Which countries appreciate them? Do your research!

So what do you want? To be involved with films or specifically ‘Hollywood films’? Your answer will be your answer!


2. It depends on what job you’re pursuing – Are you an Actor? Writer? Director? Producer? Certain jobs require less of a move. There’s no doubt that there are much more castings in LA than, say, London. Are the type of characters you are best suited to to be found in LA? If so, pack your bags! There are also more studio writing jobs farmed out across LA when, say, a writer in Texas might not be the obvious choice.

Directing and Producing roles may be less country specific, depending on where you’re filming, doing post and which market you’re intending to appeal to. For example, you may shoot in London and Lisbon, do VFX in Canada and the rest of post in Poland. Of all the jobs, Directing and Producing are the ones that may require the most movement and potentially the least need for a fixed location to live.

But location is nothing without an attitude audit.

3. It depends on how you’re behaving – It’s not just the place, it’s the attitude you have in the place. There might be people who live in Kentucky or rural France who have more ‘LA success’ than a home-grown Angeleno because they have been more actively ‘connecting the dots’. Wherever you are and whatever job you’re after, your social approach (online and off – neither substitute the other!) is paramount. Do you ‘get amongst it’? Do you help others? Do you ask for favours? Do you go to parties? Do you stay in touch with the people you meet?

If where you currently live is important to you but you want ‘LA work’, then make sure that visiting LA isn’t a barrier. Most agents, producers etc can forgive not being neighbours if you can fly out at a moment’s notice. So get the income/in the condition to be able to get there when you can.


4. What do you want and what do you want more?  This isn’t so much an answer we can give you but a question that you should really think long and hard about and dig deep into. What’s more important to you at this stage on your journey? Location? Work? Glitz and Glamour? Kitchen sink dramas? Don’t let anybody discourage you or make you feel bad about what you want, whether it’s big, loud noisy action films, Rom Coms or small quirky regional dramas. There is nothing wrong with wanting what you want – the key is knowing, are you in the right place to get it??


5. Count what you have – Don’t just focus on what you want. What do you have? If you have a huge range of contacts and work/avenues for work where you are now (AND it’s the type of work you want) then maybe just plugging away where you are is what the doctor ordered.


See more on this topic with ‘Are you even in the right country?’


‘Monday Prescription’ No.102 – Weigh up your filmmaking/writing style with the international film market. What and where, realistically, do you cater to? Weigh up your life situation/preferences and see if you need to make the move or not.

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Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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2 thoughts on “Monday Prescription – Should I be in LA?

  • April 21, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    The Author asked if I could post my story here so as requested here it is.

    I discovered years ago that living in LA has no bearing on your success in the movie industry, I have been to LA very few times and have worked on over 50 Blockbuster movies and currently own my own production house in Central Mexico. I do quite well and can’t imagine having to compete with the literally thousands of production houses in LA, some of which are much more equipped then myself.

    I realized that if your good enough, you can live anywhere and make a living. People will pay to bring you to them or themselves to you. I decided that I would rather live a nice comfortable life then have to constantly be grinding and trying to beat out the odds in a place like LA.

    I also discovered that LA isn’t really that great of a city (unless your moderately wealthy) it’s quite dirty, way to expensive to live in a nice neighborhood, in my experience the people are quite rude and it’s completely over saturated with “Filmmakers”.

    LA definitely has its pros but I hate when people starting out think they need to be there to make it in this business. Really what you need to be doing is shooting and perfecting your skill, not worrying about what city you live in.

    I had a choice 3 years ago to move to LA or move back to Mexico where I spent most of my childhood. Fast forward to now and I have a great little business, I’m getting married in September, I pay less then $400 a month for a three story 3500 Sq foot house, have a great group of friends and as it turns out, they just broke ground on Latin Americas largest Production studio about 20 miles from me.

    LA is perfect for some people but I would encourage people who are new to the business to do some research before making a rash decision that could potentially make your life very difficult.

    I realize this might be a very unpopular opinion on this sub but I still think it gives noobs something to think about and it is of course just my opinion and not gospel so I hope its taken for face value.

    It should also be noted that I don’t hate LA at all, I have quite a few good friends that live there but my experiences there have been for the most part negative. That does not mean it wouldn’t be positive for someone else.

  • April 22, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Having been to film school and worked in LA in small studios ( through a birthrightGreen card in the 90s) but then returned happily to live/ work in Europe (UK) I was surprised that you didn’t mention how hard it currently is for uk or european nationals to get visas for work in the US ! Even actors who were used to obtaining H1 visas ( I don’t know if the same visa system is required now) are having huge difficulties getting work visas now – also in not mentioning how difficult it really is surely its perpetuating the myth that because we share a common language work is somehow going to be easier to find for English speakers? Personally there is more chance of filmmakers finding work in India where English is a first language!! The studio system in LA challenges in so many ways from just getting there ( driving a car ! ). To understanding taking meetings etc. If people want to discuss projects seriously with US execs they should first write and pitch material to london based studio Execs ( Harvey w for example lives partly in London) as all the majors have producers here! Then if that’s not enough go to Cannes and get mtgs there with USA marche producers and then prepare and go tothe AFM ( Ametuican Film market) in Nov to really see business being done. Having made a serious investment in these routes then a filmmaker could possibly make a decision about a move – or actually make a Film that gets US distribution and thus draws attention to you as talent!
    Comments by former New Producers Alliance elected Chair for 6 yrs.


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